This is our eleventh year attending the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues. It is the one place where we can let loose and party. This year was different though. It is hard to put into words the feelings there: eerie, surreal, hairy, scary, sad, worrisome and/or spooky. The first sign of trouble came in the photo above. We had packed Bluesie up and looked into the fire situation. We knew there were fires near Entiat but did not know of any in the Methow valley. In fact, Tom had looked at the Inciweb site and no fires were listed in the area on Thursday morning. So we drove the North Cascades pass and admired the views until the above plume came into site. Here it is a little closer.
We were told when we pulled into the Blues Ranch that the fires were moving away from us (which made sense since the winds were heading west to east) but also that they were about to turn off the power. We also found out all the roads out of Winthrop were closed except the North Cascades Highway. So we settled into our camp site and walked around. Here is the smoke above the campground that evening.
I did not get photos of the flames on the hillsides that night. The next morning we had heard that Pateros had burned badly, near Alta Lake. This is where we have camped several years. Our hearts were really saddened by this news, and the news of all the houses in the area burning as well. We worried about the orchard we get our peaches from every year. We worried about the orchard we get our crabapples from. We worried about our friends’ homes in the area. Our internet service was off and on, likely from the fire so it was hard to get accurate news. Here is the largest plume Friday morning.
We walked into Winthrop to check it out. The power was still out and all the restaurants and bars were closed, including our favorite Three Fingered Jacks. Several of the business were open without lights, air conditioning or internet access for credit card payments. We did our best to support the local businesses there. The fire information line posted in Winthrop was always busy so of no help. Here is a photo of Winthrop at the time. It is hard to appreciate the difference from usual.
We returned to the ranch and noticed the smoke had worsened on the hills there.
Here is the smoke beyond the beer garden.
Here is a beautiful sunset.
And here are the flames above the campground after dark.
And here is a particularly large one.
The next morning we did enjoy the music. The organizers assured us that we were in no danger from the fires. They had offered free camping with showers, potable water and food vendors for those that were displaced by the fire, about 100 people at that point. It was obvious that a lot fewer people were attending the blues show this year. There were a lot less campers and a lot less motorcycles in particular. But we decided to enjoy it as best we could, since we could not do anything to stop the fires. Here is the first performer David Vest.
Here is Doctorfunk.
And here is the Soul of John Black.
We took a quick portapotty break and I took this photo of these flags with the smoke behind.
Next we saw Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings,
we ate dinner at our camp kitchen,
and then saw Charlie Musselwhite.
The last show of the day was the Royal Southern Brotherhood.
The next day we awoke to more scary smoke plumes.
We sat down to enjoy David Vest and then Homemade Jamz.
Above is a photo with the guitarist Ryan Perry and our friend Ann with Jeff in the background taking a photo. Below they are dancing.
We then saw the Chris O’Leary Band.
The winds had shifted and were now from the east to the west. So that was worrisome about the fires heading our direction but the more immediate concern was that the smoke came our way.
Above is Tom and Ann in the smoky Methow River, cooling off. The Holmes Brothers played next as the skies got darker.
Fortunately for us (but not for the people out east) the winds shifted again and the smoke cleared out. We then saw our favorite Too Slim and the Taildraggers play.
Here is a large flame on the hill Sunday night.
And finally here is a rock Ann made with rocks at our campsite before we all departed.
Here is a photo of Tom, me, Ann, Jeff, and Chad (another camping neighbor) in front of Bluesy the Floozy.